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The Parents are Separating- Who Pays Junior’s College Tuition

As the rising costs of college tuition and young adult living expenses continues to skyrocket, concerns regarding which parent, if either, should contribute to children’s educational expenses in the case of divorce or separation becomes an even more pressing issue. Some states will honor and enforce a student’s parents’ divorce or separation agreement and permit the parents to settle the issue between them without outside interference. Others will order parents to pay some or even all of the child’s college or educational expenses on the grounds that children of divorced or separated parents need an extra financial “boost”, having been disadvantaged by belonging to a fractured family. And still other states will do their best to leave the matter open for as long as possible. What’s the rule in Florida? If you’re involved in a divorce or separation, or have a shared custody agreement with someone else, it is important to consider your possible obligations.

Can’t Force, But Will Enforce

If you’re hoping to minimize your financial obligations in your divorce or separation agreement in Florida, you may be in luck on this issue; you cannot be forced to pay for your child’s post-secondary educational expenses. However, if in the divorce or separation agreement you agree to do so, Florida courts can and will enforce that agreement and your payment. What does this look like in practice? If you and your spouse divorce while your children are, for instance, ages seven, eight, and nine and both you and your spouse agree in your divorce or separation agreement that you will both be responsible for your children’s college education costs, you should start saving now because a court will require you to make good on your agreement. However, if that agreement doesn’t appear in the divorce or separation order, the court will not require you to pay once your kids are all accepted to college.

The Devil is in the Details

Let’s imagine your divorce or separation agreement does require both ex-spouses to shell out for your shared children’s education. When the first freshman year bills come in, who pays what? That issue remains sticky for Florida courts. After all, it’s not just plain tuition that needs to be considered. Other states have interpreted post-secondary educational costs to include room and board, meal plans, books, activity and lab fees, and even club dues and transportation costs. And where your child is going to school can make a big difference, too. That’s why it’s important even if you do address educational costs in your divorce or separation agreement to be picky with the details; you could be on the hook for the partial in-state tuition that you child’s financial aid doesn’t cover, or for sticker price plus sorority fees, groceries, car payments and gas money at an out-of-state school.

Getting Help

Making arrangements to pay the myriad bills and expenses the average family faces can be challenging, especially in the context of a divorce or separation. The best way to represent your interests and ensure your rights are protected is to have legal representation. Consider discussing your options by seeking reliable and experienced assistance. Contact an experienced Boca Raton family attorney at Schwartz | White at 561-391-9943 today for a consultation.

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